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Boys basketball: Kaneland trails wire-to-wire in loss

HAMPSHIRE –The Wheaton Academy boys basketball team used its height advantage to dominate Kaneland in the Knights’ final pool game of Burlington Central’s MLK Classic tournament Saturday.

The Warriors, who had four starters 6-foot-3 or taller, never trailed and beat Kaneland, 60-38.

“Their size just really bothered us,” said Kaneland coach Joe Conroy. “I told the players after the game that I didn’t designed anything that was going to be effective for us today. We reached into our bag, but I didn’t give them anything that would help us to score, and that’s what we needed.”

Wheaton (11-5) raced out to a 6-0 lead to start the game. A Kyle Stuart lay-up with 3:21 left in the first quarter pulled the Knights within two, 8-6, but that was as close as the Knights would get.

The Warriors led, 17-9, after the first eight minutes.

The Knights managed to pull within three halfway through the second quarter when Blake Feiza sank two free throws to cut the Warriors’ lead to 19-16, but again Wheaton widened the gap and had a 28-19 advantage at the half.

Wheaton switched to a 3-2 zone in the second half that further frustrated Kaneland.

“When they settled into that zone in the second half and they were trapping, we are just not big enough to get out of the zone,” Conroy said. “And that’s nothing you can really control,”

“I think the 3-2 zone in the second half slowed them down a little bit and made them take a couple of bad shots, and we got a couple of turnovers,” Wheaton coach Steve Thonn said.

Kaneland (6-12) managed only nine points in the third quarter and trailed, 42-29, at the start of the final frame.

The highlight of the third quarter was when a Wheaton player collided with a referee, who executed a perfect forward roll and landed back on his feet.

By the numbers: Wheaton’s J.D. Gunn led all scorers with 18 points. Two other Warriors hit double digits: Marcus Bult (10) and Williams (12). Luke Brost and Rhett Espe led the Knights in scoring with eight points each. Feiza snared 12 rebounds.

Beyond the stats: Officials keep the games moving at the tournament. The contests were scheduled 90 minutes apart. The Kaneland-Wheaton game, the fifth of the day, started on time.

They said it: “We are still trying to find different ways to do some things. Defensively, we weren’t as effective, but we still put points on the board today, which is good. We are still trying to find the positives. Different guys over the weekend have stepped up. Every kid has given up something to really be proud of,” said Conroy about his team which finished Pool B play with a 1-2 record.

Up next: Kaneland will play the third-place Pool A team at 3:30 p.m. Monday.

That final pool game will be played Monday morning.

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